xZot contemplated the look on Crisbel's face
"I'm telling ya Snik, he didn't look happy."
"Raid may not be the engaged individual who was busy naming things and raising moral, but I'd say he's recovered a little from his low point before the lake of fire. I'd say he's mentally up to the task" Sni'ktl replies
"As long as he can pull it together when the time comes; it'll work out." Sni'ktl scratches
"When in doubt, Blast then out!" mutters xZot
"Typical... and I had hoped xZot would be immune to this macho insanity afflicting the Yazirians and Dral's. xZot says
"Point taken but we still have reason to believe that this guy was involved in destroying our Ship. I don't think we should take any chances."
"I still think we should take him alive and keep him alive. I would like to study this pirate. Ask him questions"
"I agree," xZot says "We need him alive. He maybe out passport out of here."
Sometime later, while the team enjoys a rest near the Ul-Mor camp Sni'ktl thinks to himself
"Place of the true warriors.... Really!"
"What you wanna do with our prisoner?"
"Eat him" declares OMAC with huge grin on his face
"Try hypnosis" continues Sni'ktl
"Try Rule 303" says OMAC, eliciting a smile from all the military types with his reference to an ancient war hero "The Breaker"
"Make him lucid for a short while" continues Sni'ktl although xZot thinks about giving Crisbel or OMAC a go; they can be very persuasive when they
want to. Sni'ktl sets about with a more thorough examination and questioning
"How many pirates are there? Are they impressed with our bravado? Do they have cutlasses?"
"He's already eaten the parrot" quips xZot
"What's with the eye patches? Do you need cybernetic skill fit a wooden leg?" xZot chuckles and Sni'ktl clicks open his medical log "Phalen. If only I had access to a psych ward and had six months. This guy would make an excellent specimen."
"Bring him along, maybe the Ul-Mor can help try and cure him"
"That's a goo point; What do the Ul-Mor think of him?"
"He is sick. He needs to become another form of The One," offers Athru on one of his short visits. The Ul-Mor have kept their distance from the team during this period, Athru explaining that until they have completed the Ritual and become tribe members, he can offer very little, just some food and water. Meanwhile Sni'ktl tries empathy skill to work out Phalen's reaction
"Hmm I thought I caught a glimpse of something there... but no"
"Search him for maps and such?" suggests OMAC
"And what is the charge left in the beltpack he had?" adds xZot "We could always send him back into the cave to kill more rasties"
Unfortunately Phalen has no maps, the only things of value were the laser rifle and a full power beltpack. A general discussion ensues centred on who should get the spoils from Phalen. The general consensus that Gloo, as the most experienced Beam Weapons specialist, should take the Laser Rifle, which he quickly accepts. Then xZot ends the discussion with his decision.
"Sounds good then. Boro can have the used Beltpack back for use with the Shock Gloves"
"Place of the True Warriors here we come" Sni'ktl says
Any creature, male or female, wishing to become an Ul-Mor tribe- member must pass the ceremonial test all Ul-Mor males take upon entering adulthood: the Ritual of the Quickdeath. Those who survive become Ul-Mor tribe-members. After meeting you outside the caverns, the Ul-Mor have taken you three day's journey south to the Place of True Warriors.
Frontier Date 63.054Pf +46
The Place of True Warriors appears to be an unremarkable section of desert. Athru comes to you on the morning of the fourth day and says,
"It is now time for the Ritual of Manhood. Those who survive will become Ul-Mor. Those who do not will become a different form of the One. Take spears." Athru offers each character a spear. "It is time." Athru leads you to the ritual area. The other Ul-Mor have withdrawn to a safe distance. Athru gives each of you a straw dummy, shaped roughly like yourself. Athru says, "May you fare well against the quickdeath." He mounts his loper and withdraws to join the other Ul-Mor. Phalen is led away by the Ul-Mor to join The One
Sni'ktl is impressed by the six-legged straw dummy
"I don't know what he expects me to do with this pointy stick? Look out for attacks from below. No need for first aid now, we don't know who will be needing the Biocort later" Sni'ktl thinks "Quickdeath. Who's?
Sni'ktl doesn't know much about military strategy, but his experience to date has shown that the team sometimes suffers from a malingering approach where inaction is the greatest risk. In an attempt to prompt quick organisation Sni'ktl pipes up
"Well come on everyone he said it was a quick death thing so let's get organised quickly so its not us that end up dead. Athru seems to think these pointy sticks will be useful but I'm more inclined to trust our blasters. I get the feeling that we should stick together. Wasn't there some ancient human manoeuvre using pointy sticks...I think it was called a spike square or something."
"Mmmm...I have to agree with Sni'ktl on this one." says Bruce aka Data "We should stay in a group. More chance not to be picked off, and we all know that I'd be one of the first to go being non-military and all. If people are going to be using other weapons rather than spears, can I have them? Bruce takes up position with the second rank between the rocky outcrops just south of the oasis and grips his spear to use in melee in the coming encounter. Gloo fingers his newly acquired laser rifle while looking out on the unremarkable desert and listening to the party throw ideas around.
"I reckon we should find a position to defend and then set the spears up to take care of a charge. If it is a fast critter then maybe we can do it some major damage with spears set for a charge. How does everyone like that idea?" He flicks the rifle to setting 4 for ranged fire out to a range of 100 metres and sets his sights.
"Well if we are all going to stick together, I think we should take up position on that larger ridge on the right." Orders xZot "Gloo, you might as well take up the high point and show us what you can do with your new rifle. Crisbel, you're a pretty good shot too, you better get up on an elevated position. The rest of us should take up other positions around the ridge and these guys in a defensive layout, as suggested by Sni'ktl. Con, Raid and Jag, you big guys should take up the forward positions. Remember everyone, allow yourselves enough room to set your spears in the event of a charge as suggested by Gloo." xZot stops and glances around at the other smaller ridges to the left "I reckon we set these straw dummies up that we've got on the sand front of the centre ridge. Maybe there is some significance with these things, they may confuse the 'quickdeath', distracting it for a moment to give us an advantage."
Sni'ktl takes up position on the rocks indicated by xZot with the dummy by his side. He has placed the spear pointy end up and facing towards the direction the enemy is expected from at a 45 degree angle. Sni'ktl cranks his laser pistol up to maximum.
"Me figure it out, why you little... I'll figure it out all right, in fact Mr Quickdeath might just figure it out for me. Don't eat the salmon mousse my little friend" retorts Boro towards Crisbel in response to his parting comment earlier. Boro decides that rocky position near xZot is one he'd be happy to occupy, but is somewhat wary of his Dummy, uncertain of how some lifeless replica would fool anybody. He prepares to battle the Quickdeath with a spear in one hand and his machete in other.
Crisbel decides to get a little sneaky and hides behind the rock structure to the south and east of the main team. He disregards the straw dummy in favour of mobility and gives the dummy instead to Jaguar, a similar framed Yazirian. He takes his spear and armed with his laser pistol at a setting of 5 settles down to await the Quickdeath passing his position, planning to leap from the rock and glide in behind the beast.
Sni'ktl waits. Tense as a coiled steel spring. xZot, Gloo, Borovski, Data and Crisbel have all taken strategic positions on and around the rocks with Con, Raid and Jag bravely, perhaps foolishly, awaiting the Quickdeath in the valley below. xZot is unusually silent, no doubt awaiting the ritual in his own way. Sp'ock, Gleep, OMAC and McKilin seem to be milling around looking at something on Sp'ock's wrist. Sni'ktl activates his chronocom
"Sp'ock, Sp'ock can you hear me?" Nothing but static. "Must be a local neutrino phenomena" thinks Sni'ktl. He shouts out "Sp'ock stop fiddling with your Chrono and get up here. And get those others with you positioned."
The rest of the team deploy between the ridges, GleepGlooup and OMAC joining Boro and Bruce in the second rank with spears levelled toward the southern approach. Sp'ock joins xZot and Sni'ktl on the Eastern rocky outcrop.
"Interesting how most people are holding onto their dollies." notes Sni'ktl. "Some trial of Manhood".
Suddenly you see two tiger sized creatures covered with some sort of reflective armour running toward you. They have a long neck and hideous head. You can see gaping jaws filled with sharp teeth, and that each creature has four eyes mounted on stalks above its head. Three small tentacles ending in suction cups dangle from each side of the two monsters. This hideous beasts are running toward you at an unbelievable speed, and are apparently going to attack. As they rush into combat, they both fire tail darts at Raid and Jaguar, both team members yelp in pain as they are struck by the darts (Raid 12 points, Jag 11 points). A murmur comes from the Ul-Mor position as they realise that not one but two Quickdeaths have come for this seasons' Ritual. The Black Hand Gang has been doubly blessed with a very rare event indeed that will undoubtedly go down in Ul-Mor history!
Every team member with a ready missile weapon opens fire, trying to slow down the hideous creatures as they close with terrifying speed. Sp'ock pulls the trigger on his laser pistol, then realises the clip is empty and he has no spares! GleepGlooup hurls his spear at the Quickdeath heading for Raid but misses as Bruce moves forward to help out Raid. The Quickdeath ducking away from Gleep's spear shot puts it directly in front of Raid who jams his spear into it's belly (19 points) and Con steps up to thrust his spear into the Quickdeath's side (20 points) and drawing first blood for the team. The Ul-Mor roar with approval, their excited cheers echoing across the desert floor.
Gloo squeezes off a shot at Jags attacker from his position but misses completely as Boro edges forward trying to decide whether to throw his spear or get a little closer to use his machete. he decides to throw his spear, missing, then switches to his machete. OMAC opens up with his Auto Pistol, the crackle of automatic fire startling several team members not having heard OMAC blaze away in this fashion since arriving on Volturnus. Bullets whiz through the air but the sheer speed of the Quickdeath puts him past the burst area before OMAC can compensate adequately and the Quickdeath only suffers slight scratches (15 points) as it deftly steps past Jags levelled spear.
"So Mr Quickdeath, lets see if this is quick enough for you." mutters Sni'ktl as he almost drains his blaster, scorching the sand around the beasts but causing no discernible damage. McKilin, crouched behind the central rock mound hears the clash of combat as he flips open his Medkit and requests directions from the command team, his sprayhypo in his hand. As soon as the Quickdeaths have passed his position, Crisbel launches himself into the air, swooping around behind the Quickdeaths and firing his laser pistol but to no avail as he descends toward the bloodbath below.
Up on his rocky position xZot's attempts at Battle Rage aren't faring well so he levels his pistol at the Quickdeath rushing toward Raid and fires, hitting it, to little effect (7 points) the reflective hide of the beast, apparently providing it with some protection.
The monster charging at Raid slashes at him with it wicked claws shredding what remains of his Skiensuit then drags him bodily into it's maw and begins biting his torso (19 points after suit destroyed). The second quickdeath pounces at Jaguar and finally the value of the Ul-Mor dummies is revealed, just before the Quickdeath strikes it retracts its eyes and is nearly blind when it strikes. Jaguar's straw dummy is completely torn apart by the strength of the blow, then the Quickdeaths tentacles strike out at Jaguar dragging him also into range of it's vicious fangs (5points to the suit, 5 points to Jag)
Amazingly OMAC, Raid and GleepGlooup are the first to recover their sense after the initial onslaught of the Quickdeath attack. OMAC continues directing his fire at the Quickdeath mauling Jag (11 points), GleepGlooup moves forward, dragging his straw dummy alongside him as Raid screams in rage and pain, thrusting his spear weakly at the Quickdeath. It's then he begins to notice the burning sensation in his blood and recognises another of the Quickdeath's lethal weapons
"Poison!" he gasps as the Quickdeath continues to rend his flesh, the poison coursing through his veins (20 points). The same Quickdeath turns it's attention to Con, lashing out again and finding it's mark and inflicting what would have been frightening wounds were his Skiensuit not in such good condition (21 points to Skiensuit 20 points to Con). Con stabs at the whirling claws but to no avail as he staggers back under the force of the blows.
The second Quickdeath closes it's jaws on Jaguar, it's poison also doing it's work on Jaguar, the claws flash in the desert light and once again luck is on Jag's side as the Quickdeath's eye stalks retract and it destroys the second dummy loaned to Jag by Crisbel. Jag stabs again at his attacker, this time scoring a hit through the reflective armour (12 points).
From his position in the air, gliding down toward the Quickdeath's from behind, Crisbel Ori Jatuan notes the ineffectiveness of the team's laser weapons and holsters his pistol as the gravity of Volturnus forces him down almost behind the Quickdeath savaging Con and Raid. He hurls his spear at the monster and is rewarded with an animal's howl (10 points)
"Parc gni'kcuf*" exclaims Sni'ktl. "They've got Raid and Jag." Seeing the quickdeath savage Jag's straw doll gives Sni'ktl an idea. He runs towards the mass of tentacles, entrails and gore pushing his spear nearly through the vaguely Vruskian dummy he is carrying. The point of the spear hidden in the dummy, Sni'ktl approaches the nearest quickdeath with his dummy suspended on the spear in front of him. "OK Mr Quickdeath, time to show you I'm no Chicken Sni'ktl."
"Hey OMAC if your not usin' that spear, give it here 'cause I'm reckoning that its time to go the offence and that means getting the pods dirty." Boro moves forward looking to secure the use of another spear to replace his misdirected shot earlier, dragging his dummy along with him and thinking to himself. "Gotta use dummy to get close enough, gotta dodge all the nasties, especially claws & teeth and then commence the hack & slash ritual upon the beast concentrating on any underbelly type exposed flesh with both my spear and machete. If the SOB wants to shape up and fight back, my primary defence to have dummy absorb as much damage as possible until rendered useless and my backup plan is to keep hookin' in." He calls out to the rest of the team "If we don't outnumber them whilst we still can, it'll only get harder. Remember, real men don't cry; they war cry!" Unable to find a spear within reach Boro begins swinging his machete, not managing to hit the Quickdeath but maybe distract it long enough for McKilin to help Jag or Raid as he rushes forward to help Jag, spray hypos loaded and ready.
xZot chuckles as he hears Sni'ktl's human cuisine pun. Noticing that the reflective armour these creatures are wearing affords them some protection from our laser fire, xZot grabs his dolly in one hand and the spear in the other and runs down into the melee.
"Sni'ktl is right, if we have any chance of overpowering these creatures we will need to use our numbers" xZot mutters. As he breaks into a run xZot yells into his Chronocom "McKilin, prepare your Stimdose and Staydose hypos and get in there and administer them if anyone falls!" then pausing for a moment "Raid, if you have any tangler grenades left get one ready. Maybe if Con distracts this thing you can roll the grenade in and tangle it!"
"Dik'hitmem uki dallmif." mutters Sp'ock "Or as a rough translation into Pan Galactic. The defecation has impacted the upright rotary oscillator." Then he simply rushes forward screaming an insane Vrusk battle cry
"For the egg!" Once in range, from the end of the rock formation he throws the spear at the closest mix master of death then swaps to his machete for the big hack to shreds attempt.
Unable to close for an attack on the Quickdeath's, Bruce opts to grab hold of Raid and try dragging him free of the jaws of death as Gloo takes aim again from his sniper position, this time searing the side of his target (12 points)
Jag's body continues to suffer severe trauma as the Quickdeath jaws continue working him over and the poison continues it's work (20 points) before Jag's body goes limp in the Quickdeath's mouth. It drops the body and lashes out at Borovski, missing the stocky Dralasite and destroying another straw dummy. Under the cover of a straw cloud McKilin ducks in and hits Jag with a dose of Antitox (10 points back from poison) as he tries to drag Jag's body free of the melee. Borovski tries to cover both McKilin working on Jag and OMAC as he reloads his Auto pistol. Gloo continues his sniping from the hill, wounding Borovski's Quickdeath a second time (17 points)
Raid's body is suffering equally under the assault of Quickdeath teeth and poison (20 points) as he to collapses into unconsciousness and is dropped to the sand. The Quickdeath continues it's attack on Con almost peeling his Skiensuit away (14 points to suit and 13 to Con) along with strips of flesh. Con howls and stabs again at the Quickdeath, though the strain of this sudden relentless attack already shows on his face (12 points) as he wounds the Quickdeath.
Then the cavalry arrive. Bruce quickly grabs Raid's limp form, pulling him back from the combat front and Sni'ktl rushes forward, thrusting with his dummy covered spear, GleepGlooup at his side swinging his machete. Neither are successful in their attacks but provide Bruce and Raid with some cover. Crisbel and Sp'ock close in on the same Quickdeath from behind both swinging wildly, the Quickdeath side-stepping their blows with unbelievable speed. xZot, unable to get a clear shot or swing at the nearest target begins moving around behind Sp'ock and Crisbel to either close the gap on this Quickdeath or even attack Borovski's opponent.
The sun beats down and sand runs red with blood as time seems to stand still. The cries of the wounded mixed with the grunts and squeals of the living and dust and sand begin to raise a cloud over the continuing battle...
* "Parc gni'kcuf" is a common Vruskian expletive that can be found in the "Dictionary of Vruskian Slang" or to give it its Vruskian title "S'dra'wcab Ti De'ar".
A blur of motion and a cloud of dust and suddenly one of the Quickdeaths is gone, racing across the sand at a new target faster than the team can surround them both. Checking the clip and resetting it to 4, Gloo settles down for another shot as the quickdeath closes on his position obviously annoyed by the noise of OMAC's autopistol and the searing burns from Gloo's rifle. As the beast barrels towards OMAC it lashes out with it's razor sharp claws, once again closing it's eyestalks before striking and destroying OMAC's straw shaped replica
"Steady...steady..." mutters Gloo as the Quickdeath closes on him and reaches out with it's tentacles grabbing hold of the Dralasite and pulling him into it's jagged, toothy maw (10 points, half to Skiensuit) "Got me!" the surprised Dralasite exclaims and drop the Laser Rifle, now useless from his position in the Quickdeath's mouth.
The second Quickdeath continues it's raking attacks on Con, cutting away what remains of his Skiensuit and inflicting grievous wounds (30 points to Con after suit destroyed) to Con's arms, chest and head with it's razor like claws.
xZot notices the 'crush' around the closest quickdeath and realises that he cannot get a clear attack due to Sp'ock's dummy. Following Sni'ktl's lead, xZot runs his spear through the straw dummy in front of himself and proceeds to "bait" the quickdeath into a strike. When the Quickdeath attacks to it's left xZot stabs at it's exposed flank and despite the added encumbrance of the straw dummy, actually manages to wound the Quickdeath (14 points)
"It's a bit like fishing for Qaanar lizards..." xZot muses "only big ones."
Sni'ktl's skin burns as the air comes hard and fast through his breathing holes in his lower abdomen. If Vrusks could sweat he would be gushing, as he completes his run with the spear and dummy. Seeing the crowd around the quickdeath Sni'ktl hangs back a little placing his dummy on the end of a spear in between GleepGlooup and Con. The Quickdeath reaches out toward Sni'ktl with it's tentacles, grabbing hold of the straw dummy and destroying it, snapping Sni'ktl's spear in half in the process. Con valiantly lunges at the looming Quickdeath but blood from his wounds blocks his eyes and is greasing his spear as well as sapping his strength, his thrust bouncing off the reflective armour.
Sp'ock quickly evaluates the team's position, stabs at the Quickdeath, grazing it (9 points) and barks his commands to Crisbel as he side steps to the left allowing xZot better access and trying to keep the Quickdeath encircled
"I think we've got this one covered for now, you and Boro see what you can do about the other one" Crisbel merely grunts and turns to help Gloo, sprinting toward the rocky spire, waving at Boro to join him. GleepGlooup slashes and thrusts with his Spear and machete unable to land a blow. By now Gloo has managed to draw his laser pistol, jam it against the Quickdeath's head and pull the trigger (8 points)
" Got ya. The life of a sniper is one of dedication" thinks Gloo, "The amount of concentration is huge".
"Jag and Raid look pretty bad, but nothing that can't be fixed up" thinks Sni'ktl. Unfortunately, Sni'ktl is too caught up in the heat of battle to hear Raid's call about poison. McKilin, however, did hear Raid's cry and immediately after administering Antitox to Jaguar he rushes to where Bruce has dragged Raid and repeats the process (10 points back to Raid). He quickly realises that Raid has suffered to much trauma for the Antitox to revive him and reaches for a precious hypo of Biocort...
Despite his slow waddle that passes for a Dralasite sprint, Boro is considerably closer to the Gloo's attacker and manages to climb the spire before Crisbel can reach them and manages to land a blow with the machete (18 points). Dragging Raid to relative safety, Bruce quickly checks for a pulse and then picks up his spear and heads back to the front line.
"Nasty pieces of work these Quickdeaths. I wonder if they are a natural creature or some freak of nature" mutters Bruce as he sees GleepGlooup strike where the creature once was. "Try and spear through it the mouth. It might be more vulnerable there" yells Bruce
Recovering from the surprise change of tactics by the Quickdeath, OMAC turns, levels his gun at the lower body of the beast attacking Gloo and pulls the trigger. Some bullets spraying off it's tough hide others causing deep scratches (10 points) as the creature howls with pain from the repeated attacks.
Seemingly responding to the threat of imminent death, many of the team members lift their game, pushing themselves harder, beyond their normal boundaries, looking for that little bit extra that could just be the difference between life or death. Sp'ock, Con, Gleep and xZot all swing ferociously at the surrounded Quickdeath with machetes and spears. The monster reels under repeated blows from Sp'ock (11 points), Con (28 points) and Gleep (20 points) then lashes out again with it's claws and tentacles. Con ducks, almost collapsing from his wounds and xZot ends up almost sprawled at his feet as stabs and misses with his spear, the Quickdeath's tentacles flashing over his head.
Gloo flicks his laser pistol setting to maximum and lets another shot rip almost blinding himself with the flash as the laser burns another score across the Quickdeath's' chest and it howls again,
"Enter the Gloomeister and the opposition tremble...bwahahahaha"
The Quickdeath continues to chew on Gloo as well as adding it's claws to the attack. Gloo's Skiensuit is destroyed as his body receives severe wounds from multiple deep lacerations to his entire side facing toward the Quickdeath. He screams in pain as fliud seeps from the cuts. OMAC empties his second clip into Gloo's attacker (14 points) then throws down the pistol in disgust at it's lack of effectiveness and grabbing his spear. Crisbel rams his spear into the Quickdeath's back (15 points) and the creature staggers sideways but remains on it's feet until Boro delivers a final blow with his machete (25 points). The Quickdeath wobbles, groans, then falls with a loud thud and rolls down the hill, Gloo spilling from it's mouth.
"C'mon Mr Quickdeath, be a good boy and chew on your dummy" says Sni'ktl as he dangles the straw bundle in from of the flashing mass of tentacles and teeth. Bruce reaches a position behind Con, ready to step into the fray and cover his badly wounded friend as McKilin begins applying First Aid to Raid (10 points back), stabilising his condition.
Tentacles fly out toward xZot again, ripping his straw dummy and spear out of his hands and destroying both. Then the deadly razors flash in the sun as the remaining desert dweller tries to finish of the badly mauled from of Con. Bruce grabs his friend by the shoulders and pulls his weakened form away from the creatures reach, most likely saving his life in the process. xZot snarls at the Quickdeath, draws his laser pistol and flicking the power setting to full, blasts the creature full in the chest (21 points). Thinking the end has finally come, xZot glares up at the towering form of the Quickdeath as Sp'ock's spear enters the back of it's neck. With one mighty heave, Sp'ock thrusts his spear clean through the Quickdeath's neck and it topples to the ground almost on top of xZot.
As you stare at the bodies of the hideous beasts, you hear the approach of a loper. Looking up, you see Athru riding toward you. When he reaches you, he dismounts and says,
"You have done well. We are now One, for you are Ul-Mor." A great cheer erupts from the surrounding Ul-Mor, many more than just Athru's tribe. It's then that you realise that several tribes of Ul-Mor have converged on this area and most have come to watch the team's successful Rite of Passage. It's then that you notice her. A human female amongst the throng of Ul-Mor coming out to greet you and collect trophies of this momentous event.
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